Disclaimer: I received the Buff® DryFlx+ headband and necker warmer to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro ambassador, and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Every fall when BibRave starts to offer winter gear review opportunities, I’m always hesitant to apply because it usually still feels like summer in ATL. Without fail, every year I’m glad when I decide to give winter gear a shot because it always seems that ATL summer turns to winter in the blink of an eye. This year has been no exception; as soon as I received the new BUFF DryFlx+ Collection headband and neckwarmer, enough winter had arrived in ATL to make me cranky. Thanks to being a BibRave Pro, I now have some gear to make me a little less grumpy about running and cycling outside this time of year.
One of my biggest issues each winter is that, no matter how cold, I still sweat like crazy resulting in the worst possible scenario: cold + wet. Finding gear that keeps me warm AND dry is the key to continue outdoor training and not getting sick (or just seriously uncomfortable). The Buff DryFlx+ Collection aims to cover the warm + dry winter activity requirements. BUFF describes the DryFlx+ neckwarmer, for example, as:
BUFF DryFlx®+ Neckwarmer is engineered and knitted in one-piece. Designed with technical smart zones that increase breathability and targeted warmth, while enhancing active fit and comfort with an articulated mask design – so you can focus on what matters.
Both the neckwarmer and headband are soft and cozy, without being heavy. It’s a really nice balance between keeping you warm without overheating. I’ve been on a few long runs or rides where the temperature differential between the start and end of the activity was nearly 20 degrees. Whether on the run or bike, both products kept me warm without getting soaked with sweat, and I never felt overheated as temperatures rose.
An added benefit of the neckwarmer was its use as a makeshift mask in a pinch, i.e. running on a crowded trail or needing to go inside a building to refuel. Note however, the neckwarmer has vents in the front for airflow during activity, so it’s primary purpose should definitely not be as a mask, and if you have to use it this way, turn it around so the vented side is not in front of your face. It’s definitely better than nothing for this purpose though. Side note: BUFF makes a line of face masks with filters. 🙂
Thanks to BUFF DryFlx+ Collection I can be a little less cranky about winter.
Here’s what other BibRave Pros have to say about the BUFF DryFlx+ Collection:
Inspired by my fellow BibRave Ambassador, ‘She Runs By the Seashore‘ Vanessa, I plan to start a monthly blog roundup as a way to keep motivated and document progress, setbacks, and everything in between when it comes to fitness. In spite of (or maybe thanks to) COVID, this year has seen my highest run mileage yet, and most success on my fitness journey. With little travel, pressure of social gatherings, and work from home, I’ve been able to focus on fitness and school/work with much better results than any previous year. Everyone is different, but for me as much as this year has been challenging, the “great pause” if you will has allowed me to focus on things that really matter: health and quality relationships. So, without further ado, here’s my November stats roundup:
Running miles : 159; year-to-date : 1,587
Cycling miles: 271; year-to-date : 3,278
Crossfit workouts: 19; year-to-date: 180
Atlanta 10 Miler: Ran the modified, COVID-safe Atlanta 10 Miler on November 1 at Road Atlanta racetrack. The race was deemed the “Extreme Hill Edition” due to the insane, sweeping turns and hills on the track. The normal Atlanta 10 Miler course is already considered a difficult course so, hearing that this would be even more of a doozy, I wore a Halloween costume (Rey from Star Wars) with the aim to “just have fun”. Famous last words: I PRd the 10 miler big time with a finish of 1:31:59.
Tony Banovich Roads, Tracks, and Trails Memorial Run:Tony Banovich, a good friend of Team BibRave, race director of the Missoula Marathon and Run Wild Missoula, and a seemingly awesome guy (I never had the pleasure to meet him), passed away suddenly in October due to complicationns from a heart condition. As a way to honor his memory and support the Run Wild Missoula mission, “an industry coalition led by BibRave, Event Southwest, and the Louisville Running Company created The Tony Banovich Roads, Tracks, and Trails Memorial Run presented by AfterShokz, with all proceeds benefitting the Montana nonprofit.” The virtual event challenges participants to run or walk 4.35 miles, the average daily distance of Tony’s 1,731 day run streak. Since I already run that distance regularly, I decided to use Tony’s memory to add a bit more of a personal challenge: run an average of 4.35 daily miles through the end of the year. I’m not doing this as a run streak, although I do run 5-6 days per week. My overall daily average through the end of the year will be at least 4.35 miles per day. My November daily average was 5.3 miles. P.S. you can still register to run through December 11 and have until December 31 to complete the run. 😀
Professional Changes: Perhaps the biggest change this month which, although not directly fitness related can have an impact on how I structure my fitness routine, is the fact that I started a new job in a completely new career! After completing my PhD in Analytics and Data Science in July, I set the goal to pivot from federal service/public health into a private sector technology job by the end of the year. I made that goal happen and started at a small, startup Data Science consulting firm, A42 Labs, on November 16. Consulting can be a very busy, challenging career, but I was really motivated to get a position that I knew would be a challenge and allow me to learn a lot! I also knew that taking on a challenging new role could risk disrupting my fitness and nutrition routine. I made the personal goal to prioritize my health during this change and be diligent about scheduling my days around workouts. I wake up every weekday morning to run, and then have breakfast and coffee before 8am. Running before works gives me a great boost of energy and focus for the rest of the day. I then bookend the day at OxFit, usually at 5:30. It’s a great way to get my mind away from work and programming code before dinner and bed. So far the schedule is working really well, and has also been super helpful for keeping motivated and efficient while still working from home. Schedules and checklists are your friends folks!
That’s a wrap for November. I plan to keep the same work/workout schedule in December and hit at least 150 miles running for the month as well. There’s nothing else special planned since we’re staying home for the holidays.
Disclaimer: I received the Science in Sport REGO Rapid Recovery in chocolate and strawberry to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro ambassador, and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Since getting serious about my strength and nutrition journey this year, I’ve realized that 1) I don’t consume nearly as many calories as I assumed, and 2) I definitely do not consume enough protein. As I’ve increased the quantity and intensity of both strength and cardio sessions since the beginning of the year, the necessity to track my macros intake and make sure I’m covering my nutritional needs has been key to maintaining energy, improving performance, and finally seeing changes in body composition. Since I have a very busy lifestyle I manage personal, work, and physical activities by planning ahead as much as possible. Many of you may know, once life gets very busy, nutrition is often the first thing to fall off the wagon. For that reason, having easy and quick access to quality nutritional choices is extremely important. In order to hit all my performance and protein intake goals, I’ve found it necessary to include protein supplements in snacks and meals whenever possible. That means high protein overnight oat bowls for breakfast, protein smoothies for lunch, protein cold brew coffee mix as a late morning/early afternoon pick-me-up, and high protein snacks within 30 minutes of strength sessions or hour plus long cardio sessions.
Science in Sport (SiS) REGO Rapid Recovery is a great post-workout recovery mix that includes the right blend of carbohydrates (23g), protein (20g), and electrolytes. According to Dr. Stacy Sims, PhD in her amazing book “Roar”, while men need to consume about 20g of protein in the 30 minute post-workout recovery window, women need 30-40 g. That’s A LOT of protein. I’ve been running about 60-90 minutes every morning, and crossfit every evening. After my morning run, I quickly grab SiS Rego (it comes in tubs or single serve, easy travel packets) and mix it in a shaker bottle with some ice and 500ml of water. It mixes up smooth (no weird chalky flavor) and is like starting my day with a tasty milk shake (it comes in strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla). I drink that before and after my shower and while getting ready for work. Then I start my day at my desk with high protein overnight oats for breakfast. This whole post-morning workout routine gets me about 40g of protein within 30-45 minutes. Evening workouts are similar in that I drink SiS REGO immediately after the workout and then have dinner within an hour.
Maintaining this regimented workout and nutrition practice has me feeling full and energetic all day, and I wake up the next day without feeling depleted or starving. In fact, most of my morning workouts are completed in a fasted state and I never have that yucky empty stomach feeling. According to Science in Sport website, REGO Recovery also includes 2g of amino acid Leucine, which aids in muscle tissue recovery and repair. REGO Recovery is a soy-based protein, gluten free, wheat free, and nut free. This has been one of my favorite, effective post-workout recovery mixes. Head over to the Science in Sport website and check it out for yourself!
Here’s what other BibRave Pros have to say about REGO Recovery:
The running industry recently lost a friend and supporter, Tony Banovich. Tony was the Race Director for the Missoula Marathon and Executive Director of the nonprofit Run Wild Missoula. I never had the opportunity to meet Tony, but he was a big supporter of BibRave, and a 2-time guest on the BibRave Podcast. Hearing him on the podcast made it clear his passion for running, the running community in general, and his community of Missoula, Montana. I’ve never been to Montana but knew, without a doubt, that I would run the Missoula Marathon one day simply from hearing his enthusiasm for the town and the race. Please listen to Tony’s BibRave Podcast episodes here and here to experience his story, passion, and humor. Run Wild Missoula sums it up by describing Tony as “kind, generous, and encouraging of all, welcoming countless members of new runners over the years.” There needs to be more Tony’s in the world.
To honor Tony’s legacy and support his beloved Run Wild Missoula, BibRave, Event Southwest, and Louisville Running Company have created The Tony Banovich Roads, Tracks, and Trails Memorial Run. Participants have from 11/12 to 12/31 to run 4.35 miles, the average daily distance of Tony’s 1,731 day run streak. All proceeds from the event will be donated To Run Wild Missoula, the organization near and dear to Tony’s heart. As we reach the end of this ridiculous year, I think there’s no better way to stay motivated and healthy than honoring someone who encouraged others to stay motivated and healthy.
While you can run/walk/hike 4.35 miles anytime between now and 12/31, I’ve decided to add a personal challenge by averaging Tony’s daily mileage for the event period, 217.5 miles in 50 days. Registration is $35 and includes a commemorative pin, donated by Ashworth Awards, embossed with Banovich’s signature email send-off – “See you on the roads, tracks, and trails.” Run for yourself, run for others, run for Tony.
“Disclaimer: I received an entry into Grandma’s Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
As more and more road races were cancelled this year due to COVID-19, I’m sure many of us started to wonder when (or if) we’d be able to run races IRL again. I was really lucky my “A” race this year was a trail ultramarathon that, due to it’s size and the spread out nature of running 100 miles, was able to take place, albeit under modified conditions. However, some of my favorite road races such as AJC Peachtree Road Race, NYC Marathon, and other major events were all cancelled and/or forced to move to virtual events this year. Many folks have opted to not even risk signing up for future events until the post-COVID world becomes more clear (will it ever?). As races try to plan for the future, I’ve decided that registering for events is a good way to support race organizations, help them continue to plan contingencies, and keep myself motivated through winter. With that in mind, I’m excited to announce that I plan to check off another state next year and run the 45th Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota!
Here’s 5 reasons why you should join me at Grandma’s next June:
1. Grandma’s Marathon has a perfect 5-star rating on BibRave.com and has consistently made it to the top of the BibRave 100! “When the entire town looks forward to Marathon weekend, you know it’s going to be a party! “
2. Race management has a robust COVID19 contingency plan including limiting the field to half capacity, offering a virtual option, and 40% off registration discount for up to 3 Grandma’s race weekends between 2022 and 2026. Contingency details can be found here.
3. It’s a point-to-point race run entirely along Lake Superior. Rumor has it, the lake makes a great post-race ice bath. 😛
4. Average temperatures in Duluth in June are high of 66 and low of 49. Enough said.
5. Forget the pre-race shuttle: Grandma’s has a pre-race TRAIN RIDE! WOO WOO!
This will be my first time to Minnesota and I’m really excited for this famously hospitable race. Convinced to join me yet? The half marathon is already sold out (although they may open more slots next year once COVID situation is more known), but you can register for the marathon and/or 5k for 10% off with code BIBRAVE1021 at this link.
It’s been one week since I embarked on the Yeti 100 with the stretch goal (it seemed that way at the time) of earning the coveted sub-24 hour buckle. They say there’s no such thing as a perfect 100 miler, but locking down as many controllable factors as I could, tackling the race as something that should mentally be easier than completing a PhD, and surrounding myself with amazing support led to results beyond what I had even imagined. I believe there’s some key takeaways to training and racing (during COVID), and crushing my goal in 22 hours and 44 minutes.
1. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
I finished my first Yeti 100 (and first and only other 100) in 2017 in just under 29 hours (30 hour cutoff). I truly believe ANYONE who wants to can finish a 100 if you have mediocre fitness and mental grit. Honestly, finishing a 100 is NOT easy but as long as you keep moving forward you can finish even if you hike the whole time. I never questioned whether I could finish in 2017, but I felt generally pretty crappy the whole time and did question whether I would ever have the fitness to be more competitive and actually manage a sub-24 hour finish. It seemed pretty unattainable at the time but I’ve made it my business to try hard things, so why not? The bug got in my ear and I volunteered at the 2019 race so I would have a guaranteed spot in 2020 to go for it; you never know what you’re capable of until you try something that previously seemed impossible.
2. “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” ~Walt Disney
Once I set the sub-24 hour goal, I knew things would have to be different in 2020 in order to make it happen. The 2 aspects of training I never quite mastered previously were nutrition and strength training. I suspected if I could implement a strong plan including both of these missing elements that it would help get me closer to my fitness goals, including the sub-24 hour finish. I avoided crossfit for so many years but joined OxFit near my home in Grant Park at the beginning of January and immediately jumped into their fitness challenge to jump start the journey. My thought process/experiment was if I could hit the strength training hard and then start increasing my running mileage, including double crossfit/run days, it would train my body to run long on tired muscles. The benefits were several-fold: ability to run faster even on tired legs, improved recovery times, and decreased muscle imbalance. The workouts moved to Zoom for several months during early-COVID and it became a great way to stay strong and motivated. 7 months later, I’m in the best shape of my life, and lost nearly 25 lbs and over 10% body fat. Carrying less weight over long distances definitely adds up.
3. “Oh would some power the giftie gie us, To see ourselves as others see us.” ~Robert Burns
Due to COVID, the Yeti 100 course was changed to make it more accessible to those self-supporting since some crew may not have been able to travel. It also allowed for more frequent aid stops using less physical aid stations, i.e. less volunteers, logistics, etc. However, even though self-supporting at Yeti is more than doable, even during a “normal” race year, there’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with amazing people. A couple months before the race I reached out on FB to see who would be interested in crewing/pacing and ended up with a badass lady gang crew consisting of 3 Atlanta Track Club friends and 1 new friend local to the race course in Damascus who connected with me through mutual friends. Just knowing I had friendly faces to see every 16ish miles, who were able to hook me up with snacks, drinks, motivation, etc. was enough to keep me moving consistently through most of the race. I must have been really excited to see them because I ended up at least an hour ahead of my proposed pace for most of the race lol. Definitely find yourself a crew, both for life and races, who are positive, motivated, and flexible.
4. “It’s when the discomfort strikes that we realize a strong mind is the most powerful weapon of all.” ~Chrissie Wellington
At a certain point in life, in a marathon, in a ultramarathon…whatever…you’re going to feel like shit. This is when the heart and mind start brawling worse than the Real Housewives of Atlanta. In Jesse Itzler’s book, “Living with a SEAL”, we learn about the Navy SEAL 40% rule: When your mind is trying to convince you that your body is down for the count and you’ve lost the fight, you’re actually only 40% done. 40% is A LOT. You can become President with less support than 40% so you can certainly keep moving forward with that.
5. “Every storm runs out of rain.” ~Maya Angelou
For what is now known as the “Weti Yeti” this is an absolute LIE. But what kid doesn’t love to run in the rain…right??
6. “The best way out is always through.” ~Robert Frost
Remember that rain mentioned above? Or what about COVID? Guess what? It’s not going away and it’s out of your control. Worry about what you can control, like your training and nutrition…and wearing a mask. Shut up and run.
7. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you cant walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was moving consistently on 4:2 intervals like, as my friend says, “a steady Yeti” for 82 miles. Then, I was tired of moving, tired of being nauseous, and just plain tired, so I hiked my damn heart out for 18 miles until that shit was done. I never sat down and I never stopped for more than 5 minutes to use the bathroom and/or force myself to eat potatoes or soup at an aid station. Remember how I said at the beginning that anyone can finish this shit if you KEEP MOVING FORWARD? Yeah, keep doing that. The finish line never gets closer if you stop to worry about shit that’s out of your control.
In case you’re wondering what all the fuss is about…
Disclaimer: I received a Body Helix Ultra Light Face Mask to review as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming a Bibrave Pro (ambassador), and check out Bibrave.com to review, find, and write race reviews”
It’s certainly been a weird year. Adding to my list of dedicated gear drawers, i.e. sock drawer, hat drawer, multifunctional headwear drawer, etc. I’ve now added a mask drawer. With many companies now pivoting their manufacturing to offer masks and face coverings to comply with CDC recommendations, there’s a multitude of styles to select and I’m a “collect them all” kinda gal. Most of the options I already had I would carry with me on runs, bikes, errands, etc. to wear if I needed to stop in a store or found myself around more than a few people. However, the heat and humidity in Atlanta makes them uncomfortable and pretty suffocating for wearing during any activity beyond walking around a store. When BibRave teamed up with Body Helix, a sports compression-wear company, I was excited to test their new ultra-light face mask as a potentially more breathable option for activities.
Some benefits of the Body Helix mask are:
Reusable and washable – I just throw it in the wash with my technical clothes/delicates
Breathable technical material – since Body Helix is already a technica/athletic company, the material used is similar to their other products; light, breathable, quick drying
Disposable filters – this is the first mask I’ve had that comes with a pack of disposable filters, reducing particulate transmission while maintaining breathability
Comes in multiple sizes so you can measure for the most comfortable and effective fit
Soft-stretchy material is comfortable over the ears
Nice blue color available, which also looks like a friendly version of ‘Jason’. I kinda love it because keeps people away 😀 lol.
Easy to use and setup the filters and nose bridge, all for a more comfortable and effective fit.
I’ve made a habit of carrying the mask in a plastic baggy in my pocket on every run or ride. Since I’m folding it flat in my pocket, I’ve opted not to use the nose bridge since it was bending too much and falling off. Since the mask is sized for my face, it fits great without the nose bridge anyway. The material feels like a super soft wetsuit type material, but much lighter then an actual wetsuit. When I first put it on I was amazed how comfortable and breathable it was; certainly the most breathable mask I’ve tried yet! Even though I don’t wear a mask during most of my outdoor activities, I’ve put it on several times when I’ve encountered crowded sections of trail and I’ve noticed my breathing and heart rate do not change.
If you’re looking to wade through the tons of mask options available for the one that’s ultra light and breathable for activewear use, then I highly recommend the Body Helix ultra-light face mask. The mask comes in Cool Blue (seen here) and Black. They retail for $24.99 and $19.99 respectively and the 30 pack of replacement filters and 10 pack of nasal bridge wire strips are $14.99. Head over to bodyhelix.com and grab yours. Use code BR15 to get 15% off your order of $40 or more.
If you’re on Twitter, join in for the #bibchat this evening at 8pm est. I’ll be there and I’m looking forward to connecting with friends!
“Disclaimer: I received a Buff Pack Run Cap to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!”
As you may already know I’m obsessed with Buff ® products. I have a dedicated drawer for my many styles of Buff multifunctional headwear, my friends joke that Buff is part of the ‘Jessica Rudd uniform’, and I have 7 previous Buff product reviews on this blog. It’s not surprising then that I was excited to add a new (to me) style Buff product to my drawer.
The Pack Run Cap is described as “Ultralight and ultra smart…built to go the distance.” I normally wear visors or Buff multifunctional headwear when running instead of a full cap but decided this was a good opportunity to give running hats another shot. I was immediately impressed as soon as opening the package to find the hat has a “barely there” weight to it and crushes down to smaller than a palm size. I already knew this would come in handy for travel (whenever we get to travel again), as well as easily stored in a pack during during ultradistance events. From the Buff website, the many amazing features of this small yet mighty product are clear:
Exceptionally lightweight, weighs only one ounce
Packable design with crushable brim that regains its shape for reliable sun protection
4-way stretch fabric for comfort
Upper panel provides UPF 50 protection*
Fastwick fabric side panels wicks away moisture and improves breathability
Low profile sweatband keeps perspiration out of eyes
Adjustable elastic cord at back for a secure fit
Reflective tab on back, logo on front add low-light visibility
I have used the hat on several training runs and, most notably, two long distance events with sunny, 90+ degree, high humidity conditions. The super light design keeps the sun out of my eyes without trapping heat on my head. One nice advantage of wearing a hat instead of a visor is the ability to hold ice on my head as well, something that was REALLY NICE while running loops around a track for 6 hours at Merrill’s Mile a couple weekends ago. One of the best features for me, considering I have a ton of hair, is the super simple adjustable elastic cord, which allowed for quick adjustments regardless of whether I have my hair in a bun or ponytail.
Finally, this hat will always have a special place in my heart now because I was wearing it yesterday when I podiumed for the first time ever in a race! 2nd place female, 4th overall at the Run The ATL 20-ish mile adventure race around Atlanta. Bonus points for the fact that it fit easily under my helmet for the bike ride to the start of the race. 😀
If you’re interested in getting the Buff Pack Run Cap, or any other amazing Buff products for that matter, sign up for their newsletter at https://buffusa.com/bibrave for 15% off!
Here’s what other BibRave Pros have to say about the Pack Run Cap:
You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure.
~Lazarus Lake – creator of the world’s most difficult ultramarathon
I’ve just spent the last 4 years in the very privileged position as a PhD student in Analytics and Data Science at Kennesaw State University. Today I “defended” my position in the field to earn the title “Dr.” A PhD program is very much like an ultramarathon; there are moments where you feel badass, moments where you have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing, and many existential crises in between. Just like an ultramarathon, even though you have to put your own feet one in front of the other to get the finish line, the journey is often not possible without incredible support. I’ve had so many amazing family and friends act as my PhD ultramarathon crew over the last few years, I knew it would not be possible to thank them all during the public defense presentation. For that reason I’m including the full text of my dissertation acknowledgements here. Even then, I know I must have missed some folks. Please know, if you’ve patiently remained in my life these last 4 years, or became my friend during that time and actually like me still, then you are so loved and appreciated.
Here is where I get to use my own voice and time to thank the incredible people in my life, hopefully without the band playing me off the stage. That also means I have no excuse if I accidentally leave someone out, but it will probably still happen so apologies in advance. First and foremost, a PhD is not a solo adventure and my husband, Adam, knows that more than anyone. He walked this path with me for the past 4 years, and took the brunt of the highs and lows, stress, mood swings, and every other emotion that comes with self-imposed academic masochism. He took it all like a champ; there is no one else in my world who lifts me up more than he does, and I’m forever grateful for the best partner in an incredible adventure.
My mom and dad, Tim and Sheryl Moore, always joke that they do not know how two ‘C’ students created an ‘A’, but 23 years of cumulative education and too many degrees later, here we are. My parents did not always understand what made me tick, but they are masters at supporting whatever each of their unique kids needed or wanted in life. From putting me on a plane by myself at age 10 to go to Space Camp to traveling all over the country for robotics competitions, they made sure my brother and I never missed an opportunity. When they moved me 1000 miles away from home to Atlanta when I was 18 for college, I did not fully understand the difficulty and sacrifice of that transition at that time. It is an amazing testament to their faith in me and my ability to face challenges (which I had yet to recognize in myself), although I am not sure they realized I would still be here 17 years later. I grew up on Long Island but my parents now live in the great state of New Hampshire. Whenever people ask me where I am from, I almost always respond, “New Hampshire”, because home will always be wherever I find my mommy and daddy.
My “baby” brother, Dan, is one of my biggest supporters even though he also thinks I am a huge nerd. It only took 35 years, but I finally felt cool after I started doing some sports analytics and Dan was finally interested in my nerdiness. I knew I had made it in life when I was able to call my brother for sports stats advice. Now I just need to get a job with the Yankees and I will officially be the best sister ever. I am working on it Dan. 🙂
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Jenn and Brandon, are the family everyone else wishes they could marry into. The time and adventures we get to enjoy together have brought so much joy to my life. Now that I have finally reached the end of this academic journey I really hope there are many more adventures to come, hopefully with me being less of an anxiety-filled mess. Thank you for your enduring love and patience.
I think the two biggest supporters of the Jessica Rudd fanclub will always be my grandparents, Marvin and Sandy Udasin (in blessed memory). Granna and Grandpop always seemed so excited seeing the personal and, particularly, academic achievements of their grandchildren. Granna was an exceptionally happy, caring person who taught me how to make the best matzoh ball soup and latkes. When I was scared during a thunderstorm, she would just tell me it was the sound of god bowling. She was a very talented afghan knitter; whenever I was having a particularly bad day trying to write this beast of a dissertation, I would sit at my desk wrapped in one of her many cozy creations. It was always like getting a hug. She left us last fall but the last time I saw her I was able to tell her that I would be the first doctor in the family very soon. Whenever I hear thunder now, I just think she must be bowling. Granpop used to joke with me when I told him I got 100 on a test, “well, why didn’t you get any extra credit?” He was always very proud to share that he “graduated last at Brooklyn Tech”. He was a Navy veteran and very proud American, and one of his ways of sharing that was to hand out state quarters to all the kids. It was his way of giving back and making sure no one left his house without change in their pocket. I have a roll of Georgia State quarters sitting on my desk that I meant to hand out at my defense as a way of honoring his memory and giving something back to an incredible community who has supported me through this process. I can no longer do that in a virtual defense but will hold on to them for a time when we can all meet in person again. If you are reading this, you definitely deserve a quarter. This whole dissertation is dedicated in honor of Granna and Grandpop, and the many other family members who are no longer with us including grandfather Richard, grandmother Agnes, Uncle Rich, Aunt Jan, and my father-in-law Hollis Rudd.
I am also incredibly grateful to an amazing family of friends, most of whom are from the Atlanta running and cycling community. The Atlanta Track Club community has given me mental and physical strength, much laughter, and a little bit of insanity required to take on literal marathons as well as the metaphorical marathon that is a PhD. In my application letter to the program, I suggested that completing a PhD would be like completing a marathon or ultramarathon. I was not wrong. Very special credit is due to my fun size wonder twin, Tina, who is an incredible cheerleader, and always supported this PhD process in the best possible way; with a never-ending supply of mimosas. Stephanie and Amy round out the Charlie’s Angels girl-gang that every woman deserves. Carol Gsell invited me on the best Boston Marathon weekend of all time and deserves rock star status for editing this entire dissertation on last minute notice in less than 2 days. To Michael and Brad who are always up for a Backstreet Boys concert or a trip to Six Flags. There are really so many other people I am so lucky to have in my life, I would list them all if I didn’t think it would jeopardize my ability to actually graduate this year. If you are my friend from Atlanta Track Club, Bike Ride Across Georgia, or BibRave you are on the list. I owe you all a party like it’s 1999 as soon as quarantine possible.
To the three incredible mentors who wrote my recommendations for entrance into this program. My biostatistics professor from Rollins School of Public Health, Paul Weiss, helped spark my love of statistics and analytics in general. His mantra, “there are people in p-values” perhaps started the obsession that resulted in this dissertation. My team lead in CDC Division of Viral Diseases, Aaron Curns, told me that he hired me to be a “Jane of all trades” and then gave me the space in my career to do just that. Atlanta Track Club coach and 2018 Olympian Amy Begley (the same Amy in the aforementioned Charlie’s Angels girl gang), gave me the confidence to think of myself as an athlete and inspired me through her own perseverance on the road to the Olympics. I am honored to have her as a friend; this PhD is my own Olympics.
Of course, a PhD journey is not possible without an academic family. I am incredibly thankful to have an all-star committee of Dr. Gene Ray, Dr. Jennifer Priestley, and Dr. Lin Li. I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Li on a really fun “data for good” project for Bert’s Big Adventure in 2018 and was very happy she was excited to join my dissertation committee. Her unique insight, especially after my proposal presentation, was very helpful for formulating a well-connected research problem.
I am pretty sure that Dr. Ray became my committee chair through a long series of begging and no shortage of tears, but he deserves now a long series of thanks for his invaluable input, time, and constant encouragement. One of the most difficult parts of academic research, in my opinion, is learning how to feel confident in your knowledge and ideas. Dr. Ray through his many roles as professor, adviser, dissertation chair, and a simply friendly ear when I needed it, taught me how to “make it my own” and find my academic voice. I kicked and screamed the whole way but, by the end, I can say I enjoyed it because I ended up part of an awesome academic lineage.
Dr. Jennifer Priestley, Mother of Dragons, is the most influential academic and professional cheerleader I have ever had in my life. I would not be in this program at all had it not been for her belief in my ability to succeed in a program I was, on paper, not qualified to attend. Dr. Priestley works hard to make sure the Analytics and Data Science students have as many academic and professional opportunities as possible, and I benefited from so many of them. She wrote me countless recommendations whenever I asked, and never said no to something I was interested in pursuing. I am most thankful for her determination to make the PhD program full of talented women, as well as her ability to encourage the best work from people. I still don’t think I can beat her at Galaga but, no, I’m not whinging and my heart is definitely not troubled.
There are many other faculty and staff connected with the Analytics and Data Science Institute who have been incredible resources to me over the past 4 years. In particular, Dr. Sherrill Hayes has been my fellow social sciences warrior in the Institute, and provided key encouragement for finding my own way with a dissertation topic I felt very strongly pursuing. His insights helped me articulate and connect my passions for both social science and data science. I am also immensely grateful for the many hours he allowed me to use his office during my moments of existential crises, as well as many discussions of all things nerd-related. Cara Reeve is an indispensable resource for every student and faculty within our program; I am confident we would all be quite useless without her. Dr. DeMaio, Dr. Westlund, Dr. Yang, Dr. Xie, Dr. Moazzez, Dr. Ni, Dr. Ferguson, Dr. Chowdhury, Dr. Laval, and Mr. Michael Frankel have all had incredible influence on my academic and professional development while at KSU and I would not have made it to the finish line without any one of them.
Finally, a PhD is truly not possible without the support and teamwork of awesome classmates. My fellow Cohort 2 classmates Yiyun Zhou, Lili Zhang, Yan Wang, and Shashank Hebbar are perhaps the best team of people with whom I will ever work. My “mei mei” (little sisters) Lili and Yan, are the most brilliant women I know and never had a shortage of kindness or patience whenever I needed it the most. When I entered the program with barely enough mathematics background to survive, Bob Vanderheyden and Bogdan Gadidov provided an endless supply of notes and explanations, and Bob was always the best classroom partner. Lauren Staples is the classmate and friend every female academic deserves. Sanjoosh Akkineni often drove me crazy, but he always knows how to throw a birthday party. To all of the current and future cohorts of students: “The pursuit of a PhD is an enduring daring adventure (Lailah Gifty Akita).” I’m glad we took this adventure together.
“Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Atlanta DC Wonder Woman Run (now virtual race) to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
So, the last time I was on here was the end of March when we were about 3 weeks into quarantine and I talked about the FitnessBank Des Linden Spring Step Challenge as one of the many virtual challenges that I’m using to keep motivated. Well, we’re now through week 8 so time to chat about part 2 of social distance training, running, virtual challenges, and more.
I’m going to be 100% honest here: what I’m now calling “The Great Pause” has actually been pretty beneficial to me in many ways. My husband and I feel very privileged that we have steady income (I’m actually paid to be a student, which is a privilege in itself, regardless of COVID19), we’ve enjoyed our extra time together (truly!), we’ve spent a ton of time cooking, riding bikes, watching movies, catching up on tv (Yes, we’re finally watching Ozark), we’ve saved money, and I’m pretty sure I’m in the best shape of my life and still going. We don’t have children so, outside of work and our general well-being, we don’t have any other responsibilities. We’re using this time to the best of our abilities, completely realizing how lucky we are and we can’t waste it. I truly believe that the lack of distractions (what else are we gonna do?), has enabled me to nearly finish my dissertation and maintain a running/fitness streak where I’ve run for 55 days in a row and often do 2-3 workouts a day.
That’s not to say that everything is 100% perfect, rainbows and unicorns. I’m about to finish a degree that was supposed to offer me more opportunities (and more compensation), but the offers that I had in the works have been delayed indefinitely or dried up completely. The anxiety of being so close to the end and not knowing where or when I’m going to land has definitely kept me up at night. On that same topic, in the last couple weeks I have realized how close I am to the light at the end of the PhD tunnel. I should be over the moon. Instead, every time I get a little excited, the bittersweet reality of it all sets in and it’s difficult not to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I had built up the PhD endgame I’ve worked so hard for, so much in my head: visualized the people in the room at my dissertation defense, imagined what it will be like to get my Doctoral hood at graduation from my advisor, planned what I want to do after defense and/or graduation (Porsche track driving experience followed by dinner at Porsche headquarters), thought about the epic party I want to have for all my friends who supported me with open hearts and vast amounts of patience for the past 4 years, and, of course, dreamed about so much more. None of this will be happening. My defense will happen behind a computer screen, no PhD hooding ceremony, no party, no celebration. Yes, it’s 100% all first world problems. Hardly problems at all in the grand scheme of things. However, we’re all entitled to our own experience of the world and I’ve allowed myself just a bit of sadness about all of it. It’s ok to not be ok. Plus, my dear friend Stephanie said the other day, “we’re all experiencing this differently, but we’re all in the same storm.” For me, sometimes bouncing on the waves in a choppy sea is fun; sometimes it makes me want to vomit and crawl in a ball.
Where does this bring me back to then? Many of the events and things we were expecting are canceled, postponed, or indefinitely delayed. However, the greatness in this Great Pause, for me, has been found in the joyful things that aren’t canceled. Running isn’t canceled. Races and group runs in person may not happen for a while, but the surge of virtual activities has given me (and many people new to the sport) motivation to find joy in my runs every day. I’ve run a virtual ultra challenge, a virtual team race across the states, a virtual half ironman, currently running a virtual 1000k across TN, a group effort run around the world, and a weekly challenge that’s added variety to my daily runs around the same neighborhood routes (like running a route shaped like a unicorn). Next Saturday, May 16, was supposed to be the Atlanta DC Wonder Woman Run. Nearly every runner I know in Atlanta was planning to be there. It’s obviously been canceled and turned into a virtual race. We received all our awesome race swag last week and some of us our still holding out hope that we may be able to gather and run it together (in a socially distant way) next Saturday on the original race day. I may still be on my own. But, when you think about it, all of these virtual challenges/races/events, etc. mean we’re never truly running alone. Next Saturday, whether in my own neighborhood or with a small group of friends, I’ll still put on my Wonder Woman running gear and know that many others are doing the same. What’s more joyful than that really?